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Royal Borough of Greenwich to extend licensing to all Houses in Multiple Occupation on 1 October 2017 

Friday, April 28, 2017 - Royal Borough of Greenwich

The Royal Borough of Greenwich agreed at their Cabinet meeting on 19 April to extend HMO licensing to all Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in the borough.

At present, HMO licensing in the Royal Borough of Greenwich is restricted to properties three or more storeys in height occupied by five or more people who are not all related and share kitchen or bathroom facilities. According to research by London Property Licensing, the council had licensed about 80 HMOs by September 2016. 

The new additional licensing scheme which applies borough wide will extend licensing to all HMOs including house and flat shares occupied by three or more people who are not all related, even if they occupy the property on a single tenancy.

The scheme will also include so-called ‘section 257 HMOs’ which are certain buildings converted into self-contained flats where less than two thirds of the flats are owner occupied. By doing so, some Greenwich owner occupiers may find that their long leasehold flat is within a licensable HMO, particularly when it comes to properties converted many years ago.

According to the council, they estimate that 6,500 properties will need to be licensed under the additional licensing scheme which comes into force on 1 October 2017.

Greenwich Council says that the scheme will help to ensure that more tenants have well managed, safe and properly maintained homes and that this type of housing meets legal health and safety standards, is well run and provides enough essential bathroom and kitchen facilities for tenants.

The council also think tenants living in a licensed HMO will be able to rent with confidence knowing that their landlord has passed a “fit and proper person” check and that the property will be inspected by the Royal Borough.

An extensive public consultation was carried out from November 2016 to February 2017 attracting over 300 responses. Approximately 80% of residents and tenants who responded were in favour of the changes whilst 80% of landlords and letting agents were opposed.

Substantial increase in licensing fees

To coincide with the introduction of additional licensing, the council have approved a dramatic increase in HMO licensing fees.

Whereas the council currently charge a fee of £144.23 for each bedsit or bedroom in a shared house, the new fee will be £377 per habitable room, an increase of 261%.

The proposed fee had been set at £462 per habitable room but was reduced to £377 after reflecting on feedback received through the consultation exercise. This looks set to become the second highest HMO licensing fee in London, exceeded only by Lewisham that charge up to £500 per bedroom for a HMO licence.

The council are proposing to offer a 50% discount for early applications and a 10% discount for membership of a recognised professional body or national landlord accreditation scheme.

Even with these discounts, the fees are substantially higher than some other boroughs. In Redbridge, a licence for a five bed two storey property is just £250 during their early bird discount period, rising to £500 thereafter. The same property in Greenwich would cost £942.50 during the early discount period, rising to £1,885 thereafter.

Greenwich Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Environment Councillor Jackie Smith said:

This extension of licensing Houses in Multiple Occupation delivers on so many fronts – it will help us root out rogue landlords renting out sub-standard and often unsafe accommodation to their tenants. It will aid our targeting of over-crowded HMOs and the waste challenges that come with them such as overflowing bins and fly-tipping. 

This licensing extension also strengthens our resolve in challenging the minority of landlords imposing unacceptable tenancy agreements and conditions on renters often leading to the exploitation of minority groups and vulnerable tenants.” 

Richard Tacagni, MD, London Property Licensing commented:

Now is the time for landlords and letting agents across Greenwich to check if the new licensing scheme applies to their property, and to start preparing for the licensing process.

There is so much confusion when it comes to HMO rules are regulations. Are your gas and electrical certificates up to date, does your property need a fire risk assessment and are the fire precautions and room sizes adequate? It is also important to consider whether your mortgage lender allows your property to be used as a licensed HMO.

Fortunately, as experts in property licensing and based in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, landlords and agents can contact us for assistance with all their licensing queries, including property inspections and help with the licensing process”.

Further information about property licensing schemes in Greenwich is available at www.londonpropertylicensing.co.uk/greenwich and information about our licence application handling service is available here.

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